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Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery
Cimetière Américain (Meuse-Argonne)
American Battle Monuments Commission
Meusecemetery.jpg
Tombstones and the reflecting pool
For the AEF, American Forces in Germany (1919–23), and AEF in North Russia (1918–19) dead and missing
EstablishedOctober 14, 1918 (1918-10-14)
UnveiledMay 30, 1937; 81 years ago (1937-05-30)
Location49°20′03″N 05°05′36″E / 49.33417°N 5.09333°E / 49.33417; 5.09333
near 
Designed byYork and Sawyer
Total burials14,246 plus 954 commemorated
Unknown burials486
Statistics source: ABMC Meuse-Argonne web page

The Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery (French: Cimetière Américain (Meuse-Argonne)) is a 130.5-acre (52.8 ha) World War I cemetery in France. It is located east of the village of Romagne-sous-Montfaucon in Meuse. The cemetery contains the largest number of American military dead in Europe (14,246),[1] most of whom lost their lives during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive and were buried there.[2] The cemetery consists of eight sections behind a large central reflection pool. Beyond the grave sections is a chapel which is decorated with stained glass windows depicting American units' insignias. Along the walls of the chapel area are the tablets of the missing which include the names of those soldiers who fought in the region and in northern Russia, but have no known grave. It also includes the Montfaucon American Monument. This cemetery is maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission. It is open daily to the public from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The cemetery is closed January 1 and December 25, but is open on all other holidays.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ Visiting the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery I THE GREAT WAR Special
  • ✪ Never to be Forgotten: Soldiers of the Meuse-Argonne
  • ✪ The Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, forgotten by the American public, yet...
  • ✪ Meuse Argonne American Cemetery
  • ✪ Meuse-Argonne Offensive: Biggest Battle in American History - Patrick Mooney

Transcription

I'm Indy Neidell, and this is another edition of 'The Great War' on the road. In April 1917, the United States joined the First World War. I'm standing right now at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in France. This is the largest American World War I cemetery in Europe. The Meuse-Argonne offensive itself began September 26th, 1918, with nine American divisions and two French divisions going into action. This would see well over a million American troops take part, and many thousands of them have their final resting places right here. I will talk about that offensive when we get to it in our regular episodes. Today, I'm going to talk about the cemetery, and the memorial. ♪ ['The Great War' intro theme] ♪ And I have a guest with me today who is going to show us around a little bit. Now could you please tell all of our fans at home who you are, and what your function here is? So my name is Manon Bart. I'm an interpretive guide for the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, and I try to tell the stories of our soldiers buried here. >> Indy: Okay, and this box here, what is this for? >> Manon: It's a special box. We have a Facebook page for the American Battle Monuments Commission, and every single day, we put a picture of one of the headstones of our soldiers in our cemetery. I'm going to send a few headstones for this month. It's a way to pay homage to our soldiers buried here. >> Indy: Okay. We'll put a link to their Facebook page in the [description], so you guys can go down there afterwards. Tony, can you pan around, so you can get an idea of the scale of this? The American Battle Monuments Commission initially commissioned eight of these cemeteries in Europe, for the American fallen. This is the largest one, right? >> Manon: Yep. >> Indy: There are 15,200 people here between the graves and between the wall. >> Manon: Fourteen thousand– >> Indy: 14,200? I thought it was fifteen. Oh well. See, that's why we have her here … >> Manon: It's still a lot! It's still a lot. >> Indy: … to correct me when I say things that are wrong. We're going to follow you and see what you do now. >> Manon: Okay. >> Indy: This is going to be for March? Okay, so you'll show us what you do. >> Manon: Okay, so first we– usually all of the headstones are cleaned, but since we're going to take a picture, we want it to be super clean. >> Indy: And you can see from the Stars of David, where the Jewish … … soldiers are buried. >> Manon: Yeah, we have 268 Jewish. >> Indy: Were most of the ones buried here, are they from the Meuse-Argonne Offensive? >> Manon: Most of them, yeah. You have to imagine that during the offensive … over 47 days, we had more than 26,000 dead. So there were temporary cemeteries all over the battlefield. And once it was decided to have permanent cemeteries, most of them were … brought here. In the early 1920s, we have more than 20,000 bodies here. And after that, the government– the U.S. government decided to have the families choose between repatriation or permanent burial here in Europe. And so that's why we now have 14,246 bodies. >> Indy: But it's interesting then, that most of them chose to have the bodies remain here. >> Manon: Well, actually 60 percent of the families decided for repatriation. >> Indy: Oh, okay. >> Manon: But it was a terrible choice for the family, because it was really the first time that the American Army was engaged outside of the U.S., and mothers and fathers didn't know what to do. I mean, is it– Can you imagine choosing between eternal separation or have your son disinterred and reinterred? >> Indy: Right. That looks nice. [brushing off clay] >> Manon: Alright. >> Indy: Now this poor guy, he managed to survive the end of the war, but he didn't make it home. >> Manon: I don't know his personal story, because we only know a few stories here, he probably died of the flu, because a lot of soldiers died of the flu after the war. >> Indy: That was my guess. And then we take a picture. And that's it. >> Indy: Okay. Now are you from this part of the country? >> Manon: I'm from the east of France, but I don't come from the Verdun area. I come from Nancy. It's a little bit more towards the east. I had to discover all this history and territory, because really, the region is really about World War I. >> Indy: Yeah, sure. >> Manon: You have the battlefields all over the place. >> Indy: It's a gigantic sector. Did you study history, or what did– >> Manon: I studied Cultural Tourism, so that is why I am more into personal stories than into history or the battlefield, per se. But obviously, you have to read a lot, and to learn a lot. So that's why I came to actually make tours and talk about the battlefield. >> Indy: How long have you worked here? >> Manon: I started in Summer '15. >> Indy: Okay, and how many people run the show here? >> Manon: We have a director, and his assistant. We have also administrative staff, personal guide, and the rest of the crew is taking care of the graves, and the grass and the trees. In the summer, we are about 30 people, everyone included. >> Indy: Okay, really interesting. Thanks for showing us this. It was very nice. Is this organized in any way with respect to rank or anything like that? No, all of the soldiers are buried without regards to rank or even … origins, or sex, or whatever. >> Indy: There's women here, too? >> Manon: Yeah, we have six women buried here, and three infants also. The only organization is due to architectural choices. The architects of this cemetery were from the … Department of Fine Arts. You can see there is a lot of work about symmetry. >> Indy: Uh-huh, you can see that, can't you? >> Manon: Yeah, you can see if you follow just one line, everything is perfectly aligned. That's the only organization, I would say. >> Indy: Is that the same with the trees, of course? They were planted– >> Manon: There is a row around each plot, and every type of tree was chosen for specific reasons. We cannot do any changes, because of that first plant at the origin. In other words, if we would like to get rid of the Linden trees, we wouldn't be able to. >> Indy: How many plots are there? >> Manon: Eight, eight plots. That is cool. And you– there are some infants buried here? >> Manon: Yeah, we have three infants. When the bodies were concentrated here in the 1920s, the government decided to have the families choose between repatriation or permanent burial here. The bodies were already concentrated here. Some of them– the families who decided to repatriate, they had– we had to exhume their bodies and then send them back to the U.S. We had to redo all of the architecture of the cemetery, because bodies were being exhumed. We couldn't have any blanks between– >> Indy: Right, so they had to redesign … >> Manon: … between the headstones. >> Indy: That must have been a very big job. >> Manon: It was. When we see pictures of 1920s, it was … a big deal. >> Indy: I can imagine. The scale of this—I hope you're getting that. You can see how enormous this is. >> Manon: Now we're going up. >> Indy: Up here? Okay. >> Manon: 37 … the name is Bridges … . You can look at the states. If you look at the states, you will see all of the 48 states that were part of the U.S. at the time. >> Indy: Are all of the ranks represented here? Are there generals and colonels here, as well? >> Manon: No, we don't have any generals. I think the highest rank was … >> Indy: I've seen some lieutenants. >> Manon: I can't exactly remember. Lieutenants we have, yeah. >> Indy: That's a Corporal. >> Manon: I think the highest rank is Major. I think we have one Major here. Umm … so … Bridges … >> Indy: Some of these names are amazing. Like names you don't see … in the modern world. >> Manon: It's really the identity of the U.S. at the time, and even here today, because some of the names sound German, some of them sound —for example—Polish, or even Irish, and the characteristic of the … U.S. nation at the time was really multiculturalism. Most of the men who fought here came from European countries. They had European origins. That's what we try to emphasize when we do tours. It's really the whole U.S. society that is represented on the battlefield at the time. >> Indy: I can see Toussaint, Baum, Morlock, Hall … You've got something of everything. >> Manon: We're going to take a picture of this one. >> Indy: Leonard Bridges. >> Manon: That's for April. >> Indy: So you– someone comes out here, seven days a week, to do this? >> Manon: No, we try to do that once a month. We have a list of the soldiers we would like to have a picture on Facebook, and then we just take the pictures and put it on Facebook. Sometimes we have a photo request from families. They have, for example, a great-uncle buried here, or even a grandfather, a great-grandfather. So we just do the same, and send them the picture. >> Indy: Okay, and you wanted to show me this. >> Manon: These two headstones, because they share a story. If you look at this headstone—the inscriptions—you can see that this man was among the French Army. He was actually an American soldier … >> Indy: … but he fought with the French Army. >> Manon: He volunteered before the U.S. declared war. So what did he do? He just joined the French Army. How could we identify the two brothers? Because *he* was into the U.S. Army after he got drafted, actually. When he died—actually, Coleman died before him. >> Indy: May 29th. He had a letter from their parents, saying that your brother died just a few days before you. So that's how we could identify those two soldiers. >> Indy: … and buried once again. >> Manon: They are buried side by side. >> Indy: Are there many Americans who served with the French Army here? >> Manon: Several, not many, but several, yes. Most of them volunteered before the U.S. declared war. >> Indy: Yeah, of course. >> Manon: So, yeah. >> Indy: That's very interesting. That's very say, too. >> Manon: Yeah. >> Indy: Now this here, this is a bit different, this gold thing. >> Manon: This is a special headstone. It's the headstone of Freddie Stowers. He's one of our nine Medal of Honor recipients buried here. >> Indy: Out of all of this, there is only nine Medal of Honor … ? >> Manon: Yeah, only nine. During the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, 53 were awarded. That's not a lot, because there were 1.2 million soldiers engaged. >> Indy: 53 Medal of Honors out of 1.2 million soldiers. He died on my birthday, too. >> Manon: [giggles] >> Manon: He was from South Carolina, and he actually got the Medal of Honor in 1991. >> Indy: Okay! >> Manon: He was the first African-American soldier to get the Medal of Honor for his action during World War I. And to my knowledge, there's only two … who got it. That's– it's probably the most visited headstone, because as you walk up towards the chapel, then the gold just attracts your eyes. >> Indy: It jumps out at you, because the grave is here. Are the other ones, are they in the middle, or are they also on– >> Manon: There … like I said, there's no organization, so they're in the middle, just for equality. >> Indy: This just happened to be … >> Indy: Yeah, that's great, that's really cool. Alright, so that's– and where are we heading? >> Manon: Towards the chapel, if you want to. >> Indy: Okay. >> Indy: Well hey, follow me up to the chapel. Follow up to the chapel, and we can say a few words about this. He's filming us. >> Manon: You have the chapel in the middle, and then next to it you have what we call the Wall of the Missing. In other words, on these walls you have the names of 954 soldiers whose body was not recovered or not identified. >> Indy: Okay. >> Indy: "Dedicated to … >> Manon: "… to the memory of those who died for their country." When I do a tour, what I do usually is I stop here, and I let people read that sentence, and think about what it means. Because, in my opinion, those soldiers didn't die for *their* country, they died for *my* country. I'm French, and they were sent for– to defend France and the United Kingdom in the fight for freedom. Some of them … They– the soldiers who are buried here, they died for a freedom they would never experience. That's why I like to have people think about it. What would we do if we were called to fight for another country's freedom? >> Indy: That's interesting. That's a very good question. I don't want to spill your water. Okay, which way? Straight? >> Manon: Middle. This building was built after the cemetery, in 1930. It was really for the families who come here and mourn their dead. >> Indy: So even back then, you would get a lot of people– >> Manon: Yeah, we have the original register, where people would put their names and sign, and potentially say who they were visiting. Some of them would write "husband", some of them would write "son", or "friend". >> Indy: Are we going in? >> Manon: Yeah. >> Indy: Okay. Wow. [sets down prep kit] Do they have services here, or how does it work here? >> Manon: No, we don't. It's just for the families who– the ones who'd like to–I don't know–say a prayer … >> Indy: Just to have a peaceful moment? >> Manon: … or just rest for a few minutes, and think about all of it. >> Indy: Can I walk around? >> Manon: Yeah, sure. >> Indy: Here's all of the divisions. >> Manon: This explains the stained glasses. >> Indy: Oh, yeah. Okay. >> Manon: What you can see is the insignias of the divisions of– that fought during World War I. [footsteps echo] >> Indy: It's really well done. >> Indy: We know you have got to go back to work, and continue here. But thank you very much for taking the time … >> Manon: You're welcome, my pleasure! >> Indy: … to explain all this to people out there. Now you actually have an app, right? >> Manon: Yeah, we have an app for the cemetery. It's called "Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery". >> Indy: "Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery" app. And what kind of stuff does the app involve? >> Manon: It contains several personal stories and some of their pictures, so it's a good way to have a personal tour, in a way, if we're not here to give visitors a tour. >> Indy: You can sort of do a virtual tour? >> Manon: Yeah, you have the map of the cemetery, and you have the location of the graves, so you can walk to different graves and learn more about the soldiers buried here. >> Indy: Okay, that's fantistic! Okay, so thanks very much for your time. >> Manon: You're welcome! >> Indy: Many of the people remembered here were from Europe, and they went to America, and became Americans. And they came back here to fight, and to die, for the United States, sure. But they were actually fighting for the liberation of another country, which is something I think most of us might be very unwilling to do. We talk a lot about battles that involve hundreds of thousands of people with tens of thousand of casualties. And I know the numbers add up as just statistics. And the fourteen or fifteen thousand people here might not sound like that much, comparatively, but when you actually see all the markers laid out, then you get an idea of the staggering scale of death, and destruction that this war caused all over the world. We'd like to thank the people at the memorial for letting us come here and film. They've been really helpful, and they were really nice. If you're ever in this part of the world, which is a beautiful part of the world, you owe it to yourself to come and check this out. There are links to the memorial and to their app in the description below, so check them out too. See you next time!

Contents

Notable burials

Gallery

See also

References

  1. ^ American Battle Monuments Commission Archived 2006-02-11 at the Wayback Machine
    Edward G. Lengel (8 January 2008). To Conquer Hell: The Meuse-Argonne, 1918 The Epic Battle That Ended the First World War. Henry Holt and Company. pp. 2–3. ISBN 978-0-8050-7931-9.
  2. ^ Chris Dickon (31 August 2011). The Foreign Burial of American War Dead: A History. McFarland. p. 63. ISBN 978-0-7864-8501-7.
  3. ^ http://www.airforce-magazine.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2009/August%202009/0809luke.aspx
  4. ^ Also has a cenotaph erected in St. Matthew's Episcopal Churchyard, Bedford, New York: Victor Emmanuel Chapman at Find a Grave

Further reading

External links

Official
General information
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